“It’s confidence inspiring. You feel totally supported.”
Patricia Kane was supported by a community nurse specialist and also stayed on the inpatient ward.
Here, Patricia shares her experience of being diagnosed with cancer and the help and support she received from St Columba’s Hospice…
“I was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in January 2014. The prognosis right from the outset was very gloomy – it was at an advanced stage, it had broken through the oesophageal wall and there was a very good chance that the cancer had spread. The surgeon said that without treatment, I could have two months, with treatment, maybe a year. So I was plunged into a very quick confrontation with the disease and had to accept the situation very early on.
“Diagnostic tests were carried out in the February and they didn’t show evidence of any spread, so I was offered the Ivor Lewis procedure which is a major and morbid operation. When the results came back the surgeon said he assumed cells had escaped, so he suggested radiotherapy as a ‘belt-and-braces.’ I agreed and had six weeks of radiotherapy in May. During this treatment I had a scan which showed a nodule in the lung. The oncologist decided to continue with radiotherapy and arranged to do a further scan in three months to see how much it had grown. When he called me back for the appointment he took me into the room and said, ‘I’m really, really sorry. I’m afraid the cancer has spread to the lungs and soft tissue in the chest. Without treatment you could be lucky, you could have six months, with treatment you could gain an extra three months.’ That was in September 2014.
I think my husband, Bruce, was in shock but it’s what I had expected. I’ve never felt alarmed by it and I certainly didn’t feel it then. I just went into a very practical mode – what do I need to do, who do I need to see, what are the options? I went to my GP and he made a referral to the St Columba’s Hospice community nursing team. A day after my GP referred me I got a call to say that Roni, one of the palliative care team nurses, would be contacting me, and that’s how the contact between myself and the Hospice was established.
“Roni has been coming to my house every week…getting to know us as a family”
“Then of course I had to tell my family which is just horrendous, but they were all amazing and supportive of my decision not to have further treatment. And my daughter! She was just incredible. I don’t know how I managed to bring up such a child, she’s coping so well. Before I even found out I was ill she had become engaged and had planned to get married in September. When I was diagnosed in the January she and her fiancé cancelled it all and put it on hold as they didn’t know what the situation was going to be, so when I told her at the beginning of September that it was terminal, she and Johnny must have had a discussion and a few weeks later she said, ‘While you’re well, we’re thinking we’ll just get married’. So she organised it all in three weeks! It was amazing, it was the most fantastic wedding. Had I decided to go down the chemotherapy route, I would not have been able to attend her wedding, so I think it was definitely the right decision for me to not have the treatment but it’s been helped by the community team at the Hospice. Having not had that back up, that support and that contact I think it would have been a very different kettle of fish.
“Roni has been coming to my house to see me every week to see how things are going, chatting to Bruce and Frankie, getting to know us as a family, and that’s been absolutely great. When the pain escalated and reached a point where it was so intolerable that it could not be managed at home, Roni consulted with Dr Chater and the team at the Hospice and they put a package in place for the weekend in the hope a bed would be available on Monday. Luckily there was and I came in at the start of April 2015 for three weeks.
“I felt totally involved and never felt that anything had been taken out of my control.”
“I was in a pretty bad way when I came in to the inpatient unit, but I was aware from the first minute that people are working so hard on your behalf. It’s a very personal response that people have to your situation – it’s confidence inspiring. You feel totally supported. What very quickly came through to me here was the consummate professionalism of the nursing staff, auxiliaries, cleaners, volunteers, doctors – everyone involved. The nursing staff especially in a way are operating in an environment where they’re able to give free reign to their expertise and professionalism. I think that the trust and the communication that goes on between the nursing staff and the medical team at St Columba’s Hospice is of such a high quality and high standard that I felt totally involved and never felt that anything had been taken out of my control.
“It sounds ridiculous but I have thoroughly enjoyed my stay here. The experience has been really uplifting – the atmosphere of the place, the professionalism and the sensitivity of all the staff. I love the way everyone knocks before they come in to my room. The cleaners come in the morning and they have a chat while they’re moving around – they are so professional and sensitive to your situation. I don’t know where you get your auxiliaries from but they are absolutely amazing. They are just fantastic. The lines of communication always seem to be open – people will come in and say, ‘I heard you had a really good day today,’ so I know that things are being passed to the right people. Everyone is engaged in seeing to your wellbeing. The nurses astound me, but I suppose it’s not surprising – they’re working in this very specialised area, building incredibly specialised knowledge and they have the opportunity because of the time to really practice it. It’s been a great experience. I have really enjoyed being here, seeing such dedicated professionals at work.
“I’ve had lots of laughs here…it’s been a very positive experience”
“I love the way Bruce has been included in everything – he was wrecked when he brought me in and now he looks fantastic so it’s done him a power of good as well! The way my family have been welcomed and supported has been fantastic and that’s very, very important. When Frankie came in to see me she was so happy that I was in a place that was so restful. My sister and her husband came up last week for two days and they were just bowled over, so for them to feed that back to the family was really good.
This is such a special place. Anyone who has any fears or doubts shouldn’t, they’re going to be so well looked after. I feel quite confident and secure in the knowledge that I can come back in here and any issues will be dealt with and they’ll swoop in and solve the problem. I’m just sorry I put up with the pain for so long! I’ve had lots of laughs here and good chats and I know I’ve kept them from their work with my blethering, but everyone has always had the time to talk and reassure. It’s been a very positive experience.”
Thank you to Patricia and her family for letting us share their experience of St Columba’s Hospice.